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John Engle
John Engle
Articles (406) 

Ford’s Electric F-150 Could Be a Game Changer

A new chapter begins for the automaker's most popular and profitable product line

July 24, 2019 | About:

The Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F)'s F-Series has proven to be one of the most robust, popular and profitable product lines ever produced by an automaker. For decades, the F-150 pickup truck has defined the bar for industry performance and safety. Yet, many have wondered whether the F-150 can sustain its prominence in this era of increasing electrification.

Ford clearly plans to prove the doubters wrong. We certainly would not bet against the venerable automaker when it comes to trucks.

Going electric

Ford announced its plans for F-150 electrification in January 2019. The automaker stated that a hybrid version would be available to purchase in 2020, with a fully electrified version set to follow closely behind.

With the 2021 F-150 model expected to be a refresh of the current design (in service since 2018), many auto journalists have speculated that the electric variant would debut with the refresh, meaning sales could begin as soon as next year.

The enduring success of the F-Series is a modern marvel of the automotive world. The company plans to maintain that remarkable status even as the world goes electric.

Playing to core strengths

Ford sold an astonishing 909,330 of them in 2018, making it the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for the 42nd year in a row. That success has made the F-150 the envy of the industry, but some wonder if it can maintain its vaunted status after transitioning to hybrid or electric.

Ted Cannis, Ford’s global director of electrification, believes the company has the right electric formula:

At Ford, our electrification plan is simple: play to our strengths and build on our iconic nameplates. To do that, we will leverage the unique qualities of full battery electric vehicles to amplify the attributes our customers love and value — capability, performance and leading technology.”

An impressive teaser

Since the January announcement of the electric F-150, speculation has swirled concerning the look and specifications it will eventually boast. Ford trucks are renowned for their durability and reliability, something electric vehicles have struggled to demonstrate to date.

In a teaser video released on July 23, Ford provided a first look at the next-generation vehicle. The video certainly makes a splashy show of the electric F-150; as a display of its impressive torque and hauling power, the truck is shown towing more than a million pounds (albeit briefly). Ford’s Cannis crowed about this demonstration in a Medium post:

“There is no greater tension for Ford engineers than doing live tests in front of real truck owners, while cameras are rolling. But that’s exactly what we did. As you can imagine, math on paper is never quite the same as real work on the job. Which is why every F-Series is serious about testing … and in this case, seeing what happens with live testing.”

Verdict

Ford is obviously investing in its electric vehicle program in a big way. It has to, if it wants the F-150 to be the platform of choice among electric truck buyers.

The F-Series is the bread and butter of Ford’s business model. Indeed, it is by far the most important platform for the company and will be a major determinant of its financial future. The gasoline-powered F-150 is not going away anytime soon, but the future of platform -- and the company it supports -- will depend on its ability to be adapted to new technological modalities, from power source to drive train.

For now, Ford appears to be in pole position in the electric truck race. For now, it appears to be by far the safest bet on the technology.

Disclosure: No positions.

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About the author:

John Engle
John Engle is president of Almington Capital - Merchant Bankers. John specializes in value and special situation strategies. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Trinity College Dublin and an MBA from the University of Oxford.

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